Guest Blog: Gez Smith (Lips Choir / Girls Rock London)

For the past three years, Girls Rock London has put on a night of music to raise funds to support their programming year-round. This year we are presenting a special edition of our annual summer party on 30th June, showcasing some awesome DIY acts led by women.

If you haven’t come across us before, Girls Rock London creates opportunities for women; girls, trans and gender non-conforming folk to learn and perform music. We work with youth and adults, mainly through our ‘rock camps’, where participants learn the basics of an instrument from scratch, form a band, write a song and perform it at a live gig in just a few days. We’re all about demystifying music-making and making it accessible to as many people as possible, and our work with young people is also focused on improving peoples’ confidence and self-esteem.

Girls and trans youth in this country face real challenges in terms of their mental health, and we are trying to do something positive to address that. This year for the first time GRL! wants to continue working with young people all year round, and not just at the camps, and the money raised at our summer party will go towards helping to make that happen.

So, you probably want to know who’s on the bill…! There will be two bands that were formed at our rock camps – Concrete Bones and Judi Hench. Judi Hench were the first band to start making music as a result of Girls Rock so hold a very special place in our hearts, and Concrete Bones are going from strength to strength, having formed at last year’s women’s camp – they have done loads of gigging over the year and have just recorded an EP!

Charmpit are our headliners. They were formed as part of the First Timers programme which takes place at DIY Space for London, and one of their members is also a volunteer with Girls Rock London – they are one of the most fun bands I’ve seen in ages!

And completing this all-woman bill is Lips Choir, of which I’m a founding member. Lips was formed by a small group of people back in 2009. We were looking for a musical outlet but we couldn’t find anything that felt right for us. As we were all working on social justice campaigning, it felt natural for us that Lips would be a space for anyone who self-identifies as female – and we wanted to sing music that we listen to now, and grew up listening to.

It started with eleven people in a room singing a song that we had arranged the week before, and very quickly grew. We now have 100 members and a waiting list of 400!! We were really surprised by its popularity – it seems lots of people feel the same as we do about wanting to sing with other people, but haven’t found a place to do that. Communal singing is something that people have always done, and until recently in this country, people would do mainly do in church. Now that church attendance has fallen dramatically, many of us feel that need to carve out new spaces where we can come together and sing. We’re also really lucky that we’ve had amazing musical directors over the years who write really original arrangements that we absolutely love to sing!

We’re no different to any other DIY band putting on shows ourselves at venues like The Coronet, Union Chapel and St John at Hackney. We’ve gone from strength-to-strength, performing to sold-out audiences and appearing on the main stage at Bestival. We’ve collaborated with Goldfrapp and performed at the Royal Albert Hall with her, gone to Shut Down Yarl’s Wood Demonstrations and sung in solidarity with detained women there; sharing our stage with women refugees and asylum seekers are just some of the amazing experiences we’ve had so far.

So what can you expect if you come along to the GRL! Summer Party…? Plenty of women onstage singing their hearts out, playing instruments and having fun! Women are so underrepresented on and off the stage in music-making and performance, so it’s always inspiring to see them not waiting for permission and just cracking on with doing what makes them happy, and making amazing music along the way.

Expect accessible, excellent music – pop, punk, dance, rock and some amazing covers – and The Lips set is going to be a completely new set full of dance classics, to take us into the final part of the evening. And, as well as all the unmissable music, it’s also a chance to contribute to a project that directly tackles sexism in music and wider society.

It will also be hosted by the comedian Kemah Bob and there will be DJs afterwards, so expect to see plenty of Lipsters on the dance floor… We’ll see you there!

Huge thanks to Gez Smith for writing for us! Find out more about Girls Rock London and all their amazing work here. And make sure you head down to their Annual Summer Party on 30th June!

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